More than once in my life I have been asked if I ever wanted to find my biological parents, and if so, why? People have said “You have a family, aren’t they enough? Why do you need to find these other people? Just be happy that you had a good life.” And I get where people are coming from. From the outside, looking in I can see how it may appear that I was searching for some sort of replacement. It may look like I didn’t think my family was enough. Honestly, that’s not the case AT ALL (and I don’t speak for all adoptees, but I don’t think that’s the case for almost all of us) My family has always, and will always be enough. These are the people who raised me, cared for me, gave me everything I ever wanted, supported me through every dream, and every heartache I ever had. They are my family and always will be. I love them unconditionally.
Now here’s the “but” This is something hard to describe to anyone who is not adopted, but … There has always been a missing piece. A part of my history – my identity -that I had no access to. Vital information that nobody could provide. It’s not a “hole” exactly. I, as a person, wasn’t empty. I had everything I needed to fill up my soul. But…I guess, you could look at it like a backpack. Everyone has this backpack, and inside it are files, and photos, and information. My backpack was pretty much empty.
For example, in school when they’d talk about heritage and family trees, everyone would open up their “backpack” and pull out the files about where their family came from, what nationality they were. I could guess that I was Irish because of my fair skin, but that never felt right because I didn’t really know. I could use my family’s history and say I was Italian and Norwegian because my dad is, or German, French, English, and Irish because my mom is, but that didn’t feel right either because I wasn’t those things. Their DNA wasn’t my DNA, and I felt like a fraud claiming their heritage. Everyone else in class just knew. Everyone else in class had a backpack full of information.
Mine was empty.
Every doctor’s appointment I ever went to they’d ask me to give a family history. But I’d open my backpack and there’d be nothing to tell them. “I’m adopted…so…I don’t know…” Everyone else has those files in their backpack, they can pull them right up and say “Yes, my mom had cancer, my dad had heart disease, my grandmother had a thyroid condition, my uncle had a genetic condition.” I had “Biological mother allergic to strawberries and tomatoes.” That never got me very far. Doctors tend to roll their eyes at patients with empty backpacks. Doctors like to have a place to start when diagnosing medical conditions.
All I could give them was an empty backpack, and my apologies for making their jobs harder.
My backpack didn’t have the photos showing who I looked like, where I got my blue eyes or my dimples, or strawberry-blonde hair. My backpack had no photos, while everyone else had full albums.
And everyone else was always adding to their backpacks, while mine stayed empty.
What my backpack DID have were little scraps of paper with words like “unwanted” and “unlovable,” “given up” and “abandoned” Little reminders of that first trauma that would fall out every time I opened that backpack
My empty backpack has affected every relationship I have ever had. Friends, family, boyfriends, coworkers, every single relationship. Even my own child. Avery was my first blood relative. The first person I could look at and see myself looking back. Having Avery was profoundly healing in ways I never imagined, but it also picked at that primal wound. Having a child added some items to my backpack, but it also reminded me of the things that were missing.
In searching for my biological family, I have just wanted to fill my backpack, to have access to the same information that everyone else has access to.
But in finding them, I have gotten so much more. While those little scraps of paper are still there, and will likely always be there, they are smaller, and don’t fall out quite as often. Because now, when I open my backpack, they aren’t the only things inside. Now those scraps are at the bottom of my backpack, under the photos, and the medical history folder, and the family tree.
My search was never about replacing anyone. It was never about finding something NEW or BETTER. It was always about finding MORE. It was always a search for MORE information. But, through this search I have found even more than that. I have found MORE people who love me. MORE people who want me.
And MORE of my story to fill my backpack.